Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus each announced legislative issues that will be studied by senate and house committees during 2010, leading up to the next Texas legislative session in 2011. The results of these studies (such as regulation of growth in unincorporated and rural areas of the state) may ultimately be filed as bills during the legislative session.
These studies provide a great opportunity for you to become involved in the Texas legislative process by weighing in on issues that impact your industry and how you do business in Texas. Changes in state law could result in a more friendly business environment for your industry or create hurdles that could increase the costs of doing business in the state. It is important for you to be active in legislative matters because in all likelihood, your competition will be involved.
The interim studies will include public hearings, during which opportunities exist to educate legislators and staff on the relevant topics. The studies also lead to the generation of written reports that are circulated to all members of the legislature. Thus, opportunities exist for your position on an issue to be included in – or excluded from – the results of a legislative study.
Property Use, Development Issues of Key Importance
As provided by Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus, the following is the list of study topics that are likely to be important to your industry:
- Review state and local policies related to development and growth in rural and unincorporated regions of the state with regard to annexation and zoning authority. Focus on impacts to private property rights. Determine the appropriateness of existing extraterritorial jurisdiction authority. Make recommendations regarding possible changes to this authority. Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
- Study the current practices and tools available to counties to manage growth and development. Consider incompatible land uses and county rulemaking authority, including rulemaking authority bracketed to counties of a certain population. House Committee on County Affairs.
- Examine unresolved issues relating to eminent domain legislation introduced during the 81st Legislative Session. Monitor any pending litigation. House Committee on Land and Resource Management.
- Monitor the proliferation of municipal utility districts (MUDs) outside the corporate limits or extraterritorial jurisdiction of municipalities and whether increased oversight of these districts by other political subdivisions is needed. Review the process for the creation of municipal utility districts (MUDs) through the template developed during the 81st Legislative Session, including any changes needed to increase the efficiency and oversight over the creation of proposed districts. Review the process for creating special districts, including whether the creation of a template, similar to the one created for municipal utility districts (MUDs), is feasible and would enable the legislature to evaluate more effectively other proposed special districts during future sessions. Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
- Survey current local ordinances governing surface use of property in oil and gas development. Recommend changes, if any, to the authority of the Railroad Commission to regulate the operation of oil and gas industries in urban areas of the state, particularly the Barnett Shale. House Committee on Energy Resources.
- Identify and evaluate potential improvements to the property tax system. Consider and make recommendations relating to the following: Senate Committee on Finance.
- Methods to increase public participation in the tax rate-setting process and ensure fairness in appraisal protests and appeals;
- Methods and procedures for determining a real property interest in oil or gas in place, as contained in Texas Tax Code Section 23.175, including how market-based data and market-based methodology could possibly be used to ensure fair, reliable, and equitable price forecasts of oil and gas interests. Analyze the need for the creation of an Oil and Gas Valuation Advisory Committee to assist in forecasting current calendar year statewide average prices for oil and gas.
- Examine Title 11 of the Texas Property Code to determine if the various independent statutes are sufficient to protect the interest of homeowners and homeowners' associations. Consider whether Title 11 should be consolidated with other laws. House Committee on Business and Industry.
- Study and make recommendations to expedite the environmental review process for transportation projects. Senate Committee on Transportation & Homeland Security.
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